About Purity, Prayer-Sex, and Looking Past A Person’s Looks

Three questions about dating and relationships!

y-a-h-w-e-h asked a question:

What is prayer-sex (and why is it a sin)?

Hey there my friend, this is one of the topics I covered in my book on dating and relationships here.  To be truthful, I wish I had explained it even more clearly (which I think I’m not supposed to say as the writer of the book, but it’s okay to be honest here, right?).

The idea of prayer-sex is a scare tactic to keep boys and girls separated in church so it doesn’t lead to “the appearance of evil” and other satanic shenanigans.  Apparently, prayer-sex is when a man and woman pray together (before they’re married, so “premarital prayer”) and they end up becoming too spiritually “meshed” and intimate, and therefore have a kind of spiritual sex.

Here’s the thing.  I know some Christians who are absolutely more vulnerable to catching romantic feelings than others, and their one problem is crushing on every new person they see in church.  So I can understand that praying with the opposite sex, while a totally great thing, can lead to some unwanted places if they’re doing that in a confession booth with the lights off and someone playing an instrumental of “How Great Is Our God” on the violin.  I get that, really.  But to conclusively say that all prayer with the opposite sex will destroy your “spiritual virginity” is just a terrible, bizarre guilt-trip that will create all kinds of neurotic anxieties.

I think pastors can be honest about this.  We fumbled this whole thing on sex a while ago.  One Sunday morning, I would like to hear from the pastor, “Look guys, I’m scared you might be having sex before marriage, and I was taught how to shame people into changing their behavior and that’s all I ever knew. That’s why I sometimes say extreme things about sex and dating, and I’m sorry. We’re wrong. I was wrong.  So I’m going to tell you how great sex is inside the actual marriage union, instead of trying to scare the sex out of you. I also want to tell you that if you ‘crossed the line’ already, it’s never too late for you and God isn’t mad about that.  You don’t have to crawl up to purity, because Jesus came down to the cross to make you pure. He wants you to be free from old bondage into a better joy that is beyond your wildest imagination, and you’ll be motivated by what’s ahead instead of only running from what’s behind.  Oh, and you can pray for the person next to you, even if they’re the opposite sex.  Just don’t light any candles or play the acoustic version of Oceans again.”

— J.S.

Also check out:

– About “Prayer-Sex” And Really Bad Dating Advice

– So About “Soul-Sex”

– The Weird Subculture of “Christian Dating”

home-sweet-homa asked a question:

Re: sermons on sex The way Christian culture glorifies purity is messed up to me. When you are teens-early 20’s, it feels like the one gauge of whether you are a “good Christian” or not. For those who “remain pure”, you hear those sermons and easily think, “Oh look how good I am. I’ve got less sin than these other people.” You get right up on that high horse and there you are smack dab in Legalism City, forgetting all about grace.

I agree with you.  I’ve written about it several times, including here:

– Purity Is Not The Most Important Thing In A Relationship

One thing I would also suggest is to have grace for those who lack grace.  Often when I talk about how the church has messed things up, I realize I’m saying “Look at those other Christians” with a smug superiority, which is still demonizing and diminishing.  I’m not saying you’re doing this, but we’re all in danger of it, and I’m preaching to myself too.  Fighting against legalistic churches is still legalism.

While I absolutely believe we need to keep ourselves accountable, and certainly the church has done great harm in these areas which we must apologize for, I think the way forward will be reaching out instead of seceding.  Some of these churches didn’t know a better way, because they were taught by the same guilt-trip tactics that they’re now using on others.  I almost guarantee that if these churches were set free from guilt by grace, they would become places of healing.  Maybe they’re waiting for the real message of Jesus to get there.

— J.S.

mustardseedguy asked a question:

Just listened to your podcast about relationships. I was skeptical because I’m not really sure who to listen to (outside of my pastor & couples at my church) when it comes to marriage and friendships. I appreciate the wisdom you offered. I also enjoyed how you told your wife “why you shouldn’t date me”. Also I want to love someone “just because”. Did you ever struggle with that? I don’t want to get hung up on looks and I’m afraid I might.

Hey my friend, you’re referring to this seminar I did on dating and relationships, which also coincides with my new book.

It’s definitely a common struggle for all of us to place more value on looks than anything else.  We’re trained since birth to see image more than essence.  I actually devoted an entire chapter of the book to the idolatry of beauty, called The Creepy Cult of Beastly Beauty.  Among other things, I talk about the time I was seven years old and attended a beauty pageant for a family friend, and how crushed she was when she only made “runner-up.”

I grew up believing I was completely unattractive by worldly standards.  In sixth grade, I remember two girls giving me a hall pass and saying, “You can show your ugly face at school today.”  Someone once told me I looked like a Vietnamese E.T. baby-head (which made me laugh, but inside I was hurt pretty bad).

But the irony is that even though I knew how much it hurt to be called “ugly,” I was still picky when it came to looks.  I had to intentionally break free of beauty-idolatry.  I had to quit dismissing “unattractive” people.  We all do it.  We float to the attractive ones, as if they hold more social commodity or higher worth, and we shove aside the “ordinary” faces.  This happens in church, too.  It took a Herculean grace-driven effort to destroy this reflex inside me.  It will for all of us, and God has grace for that.  He is giving us a mind that lives from inside.  The more I found I could live from my heart, the more I could appreciate people for who they were and the depth of worlds they held inside them.

— J.S.

Purchase my book on taboo topics in the church here.

Purchase my new book on love, sex, and dating here.

Purchase my new e-book on breaking porn addiction here.


5 thoughts on “About Purity, Prayer-Sex, and Looking Past A Person’s Looks

  1. So is prayer-sex just like lusting? I got kind of lost when you said ” they end up becoming too spiritually “meshed” and intimate, and therefore have a kind of spiritual sex.” Being a teenager and going to youth services, I have heard a lot of views on lust and sex. I never heard of Prayer-Sex.
    By the way, Your blogs are Awesome!


    1. Hey there! Thank you for your kinds. I believe the concept of prayer-sex is a scare tactic or a type of shaming used by over-zealous preachers. It’s meant to keep men and women from being one-on-one or alone together in prayer. Basically it’s saying, “If you pray as a couple but you’re not married, then you’re having a form of premarital sex.” While I understand the vulnerability of prayer, I think it’s a highly misguided tactic by preachers who are using methods based on false pretenses. It’s like telling a child about “the monster under your bed” so they don’t sneak out of their room. Hope this info is helpful!


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